What’s wrong with Atlético’s strikeforce?

Addressing the issues and the numbers behind our misfiring forwardline

Gameiro rues one of many missed chances

Gameiro rues one of many missed chances

Atlético Madrid’s form in front of goal, this season, has been worrisome to say the least. In the first of a three part series, we take a look at just what has been going wrong recently.

The team managed to find the net a disconcerting number of times, only 34 goals in 19 games so far in La Liga. This meant we only managed ≈2.0 (1.8) goals/game, which might sound good but in reality isn’t.

Critics have been finger-pointing various scapegoats. Most commonly they suggest that our lack of goal scoring is due to strikers’ poor form, lack of creativity in the middle or Simeone’s choice of tactics. Some argue that it could be all three at the same time.

Let us have a look at the middle of the park. Our midfielders managed to create 190 scoring opportunities in 19 games, in La Liga, which averages to 10 chances/game.

The number of chances created is rather enough to bag a goal or two to secure the 3 points. With the average being almost 1.8 goals per game, this means the forwards only utilize 18% of the chances they receive.

Therefore – in theory – the midfield is not entirely to blame, though some question the flair and creativity of players El Cholo opts in fielding. This is an issue to be discussed separately, as it is not within the scope of this article.

Let us evaluate the forwards now. We have previously concluded that Atleti managed to find the net 34 times; out of the 34 only 19 (55%) have been credited to our strikers.

According to those stats, there are 10 chances created per game with only 2% conversion rate – with our strikers responsible for converting only 1%.

Regardless of how poor the midfield is, the data provided clearly shows that there is a critical issue with our strike force. Is the problem due to the lack of quality, form, or partnerships? It could be all of the above.

Quality

Atlético are considered a contender for any competition they participate in. To be a contender, you need to have world-class talents at your disposal. However, the only world-class forward available is Griezmann. Not to belittle the likes of Torres, Gameiro or Correa.

The truth is that Torres is not getting any younger therefore his impact the field is decreasing with every game, with the exception of any acts of brilliance. Gameiro is a decent player but he’s not world-class. He has reached his peak and his performance will only spiral downwards.

Correa, on the other hand, is not world-class yet but he definitely has what it takes. He has a long road ahead of him before he can be considered world-class.

If Atleti are to actually contend for major silverware, then another world-class addition is required while warding off suitors for Griezmann.

This however is not an option for the foreseeable future, as Atleti could potentially face a two-window transfer ban. With that being said, with the quality of players at Simeone’s disposal we should be finding the net a lot more.

Form

Given that our midfielders manage only 10 chances per game, it is crucial that the strikers perform up to standards in order to be clinical in front of goal.

Our star forward, Griezmann, kicked off the season superbly but has slumped into a rather extensive drought. Griezmann has a total of 1621 minutes, from 19 matches, under his belt managing to get on the scorehseet only 8 times and provided 4 assists.

The Frenchman might have his shooting boots on the wrong foot, as his shot accuracy stands at low 57%. His height and physical prowess clearly leaves him vulnerable in the air with a success rate of 35% of 48 aerial duels.

He clearly is not playing his best football as his dribbling stats clearly show, a mere 48% success rate from 31 take-ons. This isn’t acceptable from a player given the freedom to roam in the final third and channeling in the flanks.

There is too much pressure on Griezmann as the fans expect him to be the match winner every time, so the Frenchman must find his shooting boots soon rather than later.

The other, less prominent, Frenchman has a total of 1196 minutes, from 19 matches with 5 of them coming off the bench. He has managed to convert only 6 goals and create 4 more.

Gameiro has an even lower shot accuracy success rate that his compatriot with 50%. He isn’t performing well aerially with a successs rate of 28% out of 40 challenges.

His ball control and composure, in the six yard, has been woeful though he does seem to pose a threat on the counter with his pace. He, too, must start converting chances to ensure his continuity in the team next season.

Torres has a total of 565 minutes, from 15 matches with 11 coming on from the bench. He managed to convert 2 chances and creating 2 more.

Being involved in 4 goals from 15 appearances is rather low for a player of his caliber. His shot accuracy sits at a troubling 50%.

For a player boasting a height advantage, he only has a success rate of 41% of 37 aerial challenges. For a player utilized mostly as a target man, his stats clearly show he has been sub par.

Correa has a total of 714 minutes, from 16 matches with 10 coming off the bench. He has managed to score only 3 goals while creating 4 more. Angelito boasts the highest shot success rate out of all our forwards with a 64% shot accuracy.

His height disadvantage is clearly a problem as he managed to win only 25% of 20 aerial duels. For a player that boasts immense dribbling skills, only 43% success rate of 65 take ons is rather troubling.

The young Argentine has great potential, but he does need to improve his composure in the final third.

The striker is the position mostly scrutinized after a scoreless game, and fairly so given that it is their job to score. The forwards need to step it up a notch, if Atléti is to secure a champions league group stage berth.

Partnerships

We deduced that the forwards haven’t been up to par. This could be that the forwards may not be cohesive with one another. Griezmann and Gameiro showed glimpses of magic upfront at times, but have mostly been woeful.

This is partly due to the style of play that hampers their own styles of play. The French duo thrive in fluid attacking football that builds rapidly from deep into their half.

Though the two are relatively good at latching onto long balls, their physique hinders them when forced to compete with the opposition defence, that lay deep, in the air.

However, against teams that implement a high defensive line they have the opportunity to shine.

Torres and Correa seem to show signs of positivity. Most memorably against Barcelona earlier this season, when the two linked up to bag the equalizer. Torres is usually deployed as a target man that receives long balls, holds up play and distribute upfront to second strikers such as Correa.

The reason why this partnership has been more fruitful than Torres and Griezmann or Gameiro is because Correa usually shadows the target man while Griezmann usually drifts wide and Gameiro’s ineffectual positioning, thus rendering Torres obsolete.

Gameiro and Correa sounds intriguing on paper, however on the pitch it could prove to be largely ineffectual and at times completely useless. This is due to the fact that neither are clinical upfront.

Griezmann and Correa could work given that Simeone alters his philosophy, as it clearly doesn’t suit the duo when they play together.

The most flourishing partnership was the French connection, which is evident as they started in our highest goal-scoring matches against the likes of Granada, Malaga, Osasuna, Celta and Gijon.

However, a common element in all these matches was the inclusion of Koke and Correa on the flanks, with the exception of the match against Villarreal where personal errors cost them the 3 points.

Though when Torres and Correa are introduced in the second half, as subs, they usually preform quite well bagging a goal or creating one too.

We can now conclude that our form in front of goal is major factor in the lack of goals, however the partnerships upfront are as crucial.

Another thing worth noting is that when Saul is played on the flanks with either Carrasco or Correa, Atleti usually perform badly. Which calls for another article tackling the midfield partnerships.

Who would you start in attack if you were Cholo?


  • Koke

    As many people have said, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with our strikers specifically. Yes, Griezmann, Gameiro, Gaitan, Carrasco haven’t been playing as well recently as they have in other parts of their careers, but the entire team is off form right now. The strikers aren’t the key problem.

    The key problem is 1) the midfield and 2) the tactics. If you took Suarez or Crisitano in their prime and put them in Gameiro’s position, they wouldn’t score many goals either. Where is our chance creation? We need more creative players to support the forward line. Players that can play the attacking midfield role, staying behind the strikers and dribbling into space, playing through passes, etc. Neither Koke nor Saul fits the bill (doesn’t mean they’re bad players, I think both are great even if they’ve been playing not as well lately.) Barca and Madrid have TONS of these players (Isco, James, Kovakic, Kroos, Modric/Iniesta, Denis, Gomes, Arda, Rafinha) whereas we don’t have even a single one, unless you want to count the Gaitan the winger.

    If we created more chances we would score more goals. It’s not like Gameiro and co are missing 5 easy chances every game. They barely get easy chances in the first place, and creating those chances isn’t their job alone. Vietto, Gameiro, Jackson, Jimenez, Cerci, all came to us after having 20+ goal seasons, and many of them came to us and scored between 0 and 5 goals in their first year. That’s not right. Something must then be wrong with the way we play, not the players we have.

  • Koke

    And I know people will point to games like the last one when we do field attacking formations and still play badly as evidence that they don’t work. Well, firstly, it’s not just the formation but the tactics and style of play and instructions, and secondly, of course players are going to play poorly when they adjust to a new system! That’s natural. This team has all the tools to flourish, they just aren’t using them. People can hate and complain about Gameiro, or Saul, or Gaitan, or Torres, or anyone else but the truth is that all of these players are very good and capable and are being misused, therefore prevented from playing their best. Again, I’d like to see Lewandowski, Suarez, Aubameyang, Aguero, Higuain, or Ronaldo play in our system in place of Gameiro just to see how badly they’d struggle and how average they’d look. One player can’t do it all. That’s what Griezmann has been trying to do, and that’s why he has been so tired and going in and out of form lately.

  • STALKER

    Diego Simeone must be sacked and be replaced by Didier Deschamps.

  • STALKER

    He is a flawless coach. No errors.

  • iamfaried

    All of your points will be tackled in the next couple of articles.

  • Ittapupu

    Thats a pretty good idea.

  • thericeking

    saying ‘tactics’ is very generic. but i imagine you have tried to nail down the exact flaws we have in the past. for me, our defense problems are where we used to have 2/3 players closing down the opposition as soon as they got the ball, now sometimes there isnt even one (straight away that is). why would we do this? so we have players in space when we do get the ball back. this brings us to the attacking problems. whenever we get the ball it is almost as if we are clearing it rather than playing football. we try and hoof it up top and hope it goes favourably or we try play it out soooo fast that even we dont know what we’re doing.. and poof we lose it.. right now. the whole team has forgotten how to play uick passing football. the players who had flair last year, flair that got us through, have none this year.. grizi’s goals dried up. it was said a hundred times last year i cant count how many times i saw: ‘grizi scores again’ ‘if it wasnt for grizi we would be doing bad’ ‘1-0 grizi’…. it was bound to end and now it has. and we have been exposed.
    we are incapable of passing, our players are poor at posiitoning themselves offensively off the ball and we are lacking in composure in the pass/build-up.
    until we fix that. we are ferkd

  • Poor clinical finishing in Alaves, Leganes, Villarreal (two horrible individual defensive errors as well.), Sevilla, and a few other matches, were the reason of us losing or dropping points.

    Our clinical finishing isn’t up to par with the players that have been fielded. This article is spot on. However, if you really analyzed matches thoroughly, you’d know that you don’t need stats to understand what has been wrong this season. It’s been poor finishing and a team that has been stuck in tactical limbo for stretches of this season.

    Good article, Ali.

  • Kris

    If I were Cholo, I would accept that I have limitations to my capabilities as an attacking-minded tactician/manager and, a) either hire an assistant manager that can work with me to help create an effective attacking-minded setup, or b) I would try to focus solely for 2 or 3 hours of my day on researching how to play attacking football and implement that in my training routines. Option “b” would probably be a lot harder and conflicting, but option “a” can work if I was willing to listen to others and learn. Also, I definitely wouldn’t start with four CMs every single game because by now I have recognized that to be a lot less effective than I think it is. And as a coach, I wouldn’t hesitate to bench players who haven’t given me anything in 4 or 5 games.

    The question asked for me to imagine myself in Cholo’s role, so don’t be a dick.

  • Koke

    Yes. Ironically we actually used to be capable of playing very well, back in the time when the world saw us as the team that “played ugly.” I remember in 2013/14 in the second leg against Chelsea we passed them off the park with some beautiful gameplay, especially after we sealed the victory. Tiago, Koke, and Gabi worked perfectly in tandem, and the likes of Juanfran, Filipe, and Arda also always found the best positions to take. We also used so pretty intricate passes around the touchlines in the opponent’s final third, usually between the winger and fullback, and managed to fashion chances. Koke was like a mini Xavi, and knew how to play split second through balls at a moment’s notice. All this was with the likes of Raul Garcia instead of Griezmann, Villa instead of Carrasco, etc.

    Now we’re somehow playing worse both offensively and defensively, with better players? I don’t know if the players are tired or what but if so that’s why we have expensive talents on our bench usually. We’ve been playing really poorly for a while now, and as you said, Griezmann usually saved our asses and masked the problem.

  • iamfaried

    Cheers!

  • Torres

    One good game will change everything.But we need to change our tactics. Should let forwards play freely.
    Our mid field is largely ineffevtive.Dont knw what simeone is doing with them.

  • Zinni DUDU

    How should our strikers score, when Saul is not able to play a ball over 3m? I never saw him playing constantly through balls to one of our strikers. The only players who are able to create chances are Griezmann himself and Koke which is surely not enough. We are lacking of a player who can create together with koke chances while Gabi is holding the middlefield; someone like Kovacic, Modric or Kroos. Torres had always his best times when had somebody behind him who was playing non stop through balls to him. The only who is doing this this season is correa, thatswhy he is not scoring.

  • rquaresma

    Let me give you another opinion:
    Where are our players with balls and manhood ? This team was frigtening to their opponents in 2013-2014. Raul Garcia and Diego Costa used to get their opponents wet panties with just one look… Don’t you miss the looks of Ramos and Pepe when Costa dominated them on the field? Don’t you miss the rough face of Raul Garcia slaping opponents around ? Now what we have: short, childy, metrosexual players… Where is our ariel power where is our strenght ? The truht is that this team lacks balls right now. Not class – BALLS !
    On the subjet: The fact is that we do not have typical playmaker right now. Koke is a great player but he fails to hold the ball and lead the team like typical playmaker. He even can’t play the corners well… Add to this fact that Arda Turan is not here and we do not have player like Diego Ribas and here is the answer why we have under 30% possetion vs teams like Alaves and Las Palmas. Some may say that is subject to tactics. But tactics are build on the right type of players.

  • Zinni DUDU

    Thats what I am talking about since beginn of the season. We are playing like in Season 2013/14, while we have mini midget hipster players. Look at Griezmann when I see him every time with his mate-tea I am getting angry what kind of player we now have. There were times where Kokes-Corners where called “penalty corners” because every of them was so good. What was the club thinking of when they brought Gameiro? He is not strong and bully enough to lead the fucking line. Yeah is working hard and he is really fast but he is not the type of striker we need. He is not strong and bully enough to lead the fucking line. Baston could have been the right kind of player, oh but Simeone need a new summer star signing bla bla. I do not need this shit, when you have homegrown player who is Rojiblanco since he was eleven old years old, you do not bring in a fucking hipster. Look how Carrasco was throwing around the bottles when we subbed like a diva. I do now want this kind of players, I want real man who are reading to give all what they got when they are playing

  • rquaresma

    Completely agree !
    God, I miss our bad ass attitude era, our penalty corners and the tough mafia style thug on the sideline…

  • KO CESARO

    Fucking A you damn right

  • KO CESARO

    Raul Garcia is fantastic player he just was not lucky enough to play in teams like juventus or bayern because if that shit happened i am pretty sure he would have won many titles

  • Hannu

    Are you real madrid fanboy?

  • Hannu

    Well he won titles with Atleti.

  • Koke

    I don’t think there’s any correlation between ‘badass’ players and ‘technical’ players. Just because a player is smaller, or better at dribbling, or more creative, doesn’t mean he can’t also have massive balls. I agree with you guys that our players need to return to the old mentality but I don’t think we have to return to the old types of player. Remember when we only had ONE player in our starting lineup that was capable of dribbling past even a single player (Arda, who was also quite slow). I sure don’t miss that.

    Carrasco is ballsy, Koke is ballsy, Griezmann is ballsy. Same as Saul, Juanfran, Savic, Gimenez, Lucas, Oblak, etc. These “hipsters” completely neutralized Barca and Bayern over 4 games last year, home and away. I think something is wrong with their mentality right now but they are capable of showing the same grit and determination with the right coaching. I do agree that it would have been nicer to keep Baston or get Icardi or Costa instead of Gameiro, and I want us to return to our domination from set pieces and our ability to scare even Ramos and Pepe. But I think any player is capable of any mentality (just look at how normal players like Mascherano, Alba, Arda, become little bitches when they join Barca) and it’s up to Simeone to make them men, like he did before.

  • Hannu

    Yeah actually we have great and ballsy team but what we lack is strong and ballsy striker. Gameiro just cant match with defenders and even if he is fast he cant get past defenders so yeah it would have been not just nice but great to have striker like Icardi or Costa or try Baston. But yeah its all about coaching as well..